Friday, January 28, 2011


You've probably seen this story (via Steve Benen):

... For years, federal laws restricting the use of government funds to pay for abortions have included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.... But the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," a bill with 173 mostly Republican co-sponsors that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has dubbed a top priority in the new Congress, contains a provision that would rewrite the rules to limit drastically the definition of rape and incest in these cases.

With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to "forcible rape." This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible. For example: If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion....

One reason this appears to be happening is that it's a common belief in the anti-abortion crowd that pregnancy from forcible rape simply doesn't happen, or happens so rarely that limiting taxpayer abortion funding to cases of forcible rape would effectively eliminate all such funding.

An anti-abortion article at a site called the Bible Study Page puts the case bluntly:

Statutory rape is usually not forcible rape. Any girl seventeen or younger who has had intercourse can be classified as having been raped. The idea being, she was too young to give legitimate consent.

A study done by J. Kuchera for the Journal of the American Medical Association states,
A scientific study of 1,000 cases of rape treated medically right after the rape results in zero cases of pregnancy.{12}
There you have it, like a dead dog in your front yard, facts are facts. Rape is not an issue, nor should it be an issue of much importance when discussing the abortion question.

(In fact, the study in question said pregnancy never resulted in this group among women given the morning-after pill -- and, in fact, Dr. Kuchera later said some raped women studied did become pregnant. The source for the Bible Study Page's misinformation is a book titled Abortion: The American Holocaust.)

Here, at a site called Christian Life Resources, we're told that forcible rape sometimes causes pregnancy, but such cases are rare. This is from a 1999 article by John C. Willke, M.D., in Life Issues Connector (Willke seems to be the anti-abortion movement's go-to guy on this):

First, let's define the term "rape." When pro-lifers speak of rape pregnancies, we should commonly use the phrase "forcible rape" or "assault rape," for that specifies what we're talking about. Rape can also be statutory. Depending upon your state law, statutory rape can be consensual, but we're not addressing that here....

Assault rape
pregnancies are extremely rare. Most pro-lifers have heard this comment, but too often cannot back it up with facts....

How many rape pregnancies are there? The answer is that, according to statistical reporting, there are no more than one or two pregnancies resultant from every 1,000 forcible rapes.

That's a very low rate -- one or two tenths of a percent. According to Dr. Willke, this is for a scientific reason:

Finally, factor in what is certainly one of the most important reasons why a rape victim rarely gets pregnant, and that's physical trauma. Every woman is aware that stress and emotional factors can alter her menstrual cycle. To get and stay pregnant a woman's body must produce a very sophisticated mix of hormones. Hormone production is controlled by a part of the brain that is easily influenced by emotions. There's no greater emotional trauma that can be experienced by a woman than an assault rape. This can radically upset her possibility of ovulation, fertilization, implantation and even nurturing of a pregnancy. So what further percentage reduction in pregnancy will this cause? No one knows, but this factor certainly cuts this last figure by at least 50 percent and probably more.

So see? Rape is so stressful you probably can't get pregnant.

Over here, Dr. Willke and his wife reiterate these statistics.

What do reputable scientists say? In 2007 -- yes, when Bush was president -- the Centers for Disease Control (PDF) cited this 1996 study, which estimates that approximately 32,000 pregnancies a year result from rape, and that about 5% of rapes end in pregnancy.

I suppose that if the anti-abortion movement could succeed in selling its line to the public, it could then argue that a pregnancy resulting from a rape couldn't be from a rape, because, well, rapes just don't cause pregnancy. And that may be where all this is headed.

1 comment:

tryanmax said...

I predict you'll respond to this with more passion than is warranted, but I must point out that the CDC report does not make the same distinction that the authors whom you criticize do and is therefore inadequate to support your ultimate claim nor to refute theirs. That is unless you consider all rapes to be equal in violence. Your gut response will probably be "yes" but first consider that whether I shove you or shoot you, both are acts of violence though they are hardly equal.

I only bring this up because I am attempting some actual research into the question, but am finding myself wading through hundreds of such articles that refuse to make such distinctions on the grounds that rape is too atrocious to consider in the details. However, I am more curious than that. Quite simply, if the female body does react differently in cases of forcible/assault-type rape than in cases of coercive, statutory, or drug/alcohol-related rape, I would like to know. Likewise if it does not. No such information seems to exist.

If you know otherwise, such information would be greatly appreciated.